The top Democrat on the US Senate Intelligence Committee accused Russia on Thursday of mounting a campaign of "propaganda on steroids" seeking to influence the presidential election which resulted in Donald Trump winning.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday dismissed what he called “endless and groundless” accusations of his country meddling in the US election. Putin said the accusations were part of a US domestic political struggle.
"I will not prejudge the outcome of our investigation," Senator Mark Warner told the committee hearing. "We are seeking to determine if there is an actual fire, but so far there is a great, great deal of smoke."
TRT World has more from the hearing.
Influencing an election?
The lawmakers warned of the seriousness of Russian efforts. Experts at the hearing detailed what they described as the dissemination of disinformation and cyber attacks on both Democrat and Republican political operatives.
The senators also called attention to possible Russian attempts to influence upcoming elections in France and Germany.
Warner, who was a technology executive before entering politics, described a sweeping Russian campaign using trolls and botnets, or networks of hacked or infected devices, to disseminate large amounts of disinformation.
"This Russian 'propaganda on steroids' was designed to poison the national conversation in America," Warner said.
A separate investigation in the House of Representatives into Russia's alleged role in the US election has become mired in controversy over accusations that its Republican chairman, Trump ally Devin Nunes, is not impartial.
The top Democrat on the House of Representatives, Adam Schiff, told reporters the chamber's investigation into Russian meddling in US elections needs to go forward despite whatever obstacles it may face.
"One way or another, the investigation has to take place," Representative Adam Schiff told reporters. "We're carrying on."
Straight from the White House
Schiff on Thursday accepted a White House invitation to top Republican and Democratic members of the Senate and House of Representatives intelligence panels to review new material relevant to their investigation into Russia's alleged interference in the US elections.
The White House's handling of the materials raises "profound questions," Schiff said, noting that White House staff has no reason to pass information to a congressional committee chair rather than just delivering it to Trump directly.